When my sister-in-law Penny opened The Hungry Hound in downtown Somerville 13 years ago, we decided to put in a dog portrait studio. I’ve photographed hundreds of dogs since then but her store grew and she needed the studio space for other things.
I recently launched LorenDogs.com for my dog photography business and I’ve set up a couple of studios in my office. Christmas cards are popular so one set has a festival holiday background featuring one of my office fireplaces. I got my seven-month-old puppy, Pudge, to try out the holiday set and she looks pretty good. If you want me to photograph your pup, check out LorenDogs.com
Today is one the more fun photo assignments I have every year, I hang out of a helicopter and photograph the Far Hills Race Meeting. More than 35,000 people pile into a farm in Far Hills and have the craziest tail gate party you can imagine. Far Hills is one of the most exclusive towns in the country and the area is home to many rich and famous who want a country home not too far from New York City. Automaker John DeLorean’s estate was purchased by Donald Trump a few years ago and is now Trump National Golf Course, which is where he spent his time while the White House was being renovated. Even though this is a Republican area, the folks weren’t too happy with all the closures and security.
Back at the race, the goal seems to be to outdo your neighbor, so naturally you bring your butler to serve your guests from the back of your Rolls Royce. Ice scultpures, fine crystal champagne glasses and the latest in country attire are the norm.
I’ve been photographing the event from a helicopter for about 20 years, so I haven’t been on the ground lately, but when I worked at the newspaper, we enjoyed Monday morning’s phone call to the Far Hills police to get the names of those arrested for public drunkedness and peeing in the woods, it was always a long list but we never saw anyone famous.
I’ve used lots of different helicopters, pretty much each year is a new pilot. For awhile the Race Meeting was able to get the helicopter time donated. I usually have the pilot take the door off to make it easier to shoot. One year it was a bit rainy, it was a different helicopter and the pilot didn’t want to take the door off and get the inside wet. When I got in the chopper I saw why, it was covered in soft tan leather, which is rather unusual. I asked the pilot about it and he said the leather was installed to match the owner’s Mazeratti. I flew the next year in the same bird and the following year was a new helicopter. I asked why weren’t using the fancy one and I was told it crashed and killed three people earlier in the year.
I strap myself in pretty good, if I’m going to turn sideways and have my feet hanging out, I put on a climbing harness and hook it into the seat belts. What is strange is that I can no longer climb a ladder, I get all wooey, but hanging out of a helicopter doesn’t bother me at all.
One of the fun things shooting from a chopper is seeing things from a different angle. I saw this large installation of solar panels, so during one of our sweeps in that direction, I had the pilot put me right over them. I love what happens when I see things in a different way.
The day after always seems to be the hardest. I got back yesterday from my Oregon Total Solar Eclipse workshop and I’ve finally had a little time to look through some images and think back on what a great experience it was.
The most important part of any workshop is the people attend and I had a great group once again. They came from across the country and Israel and we spent a lot of time driving around Oregon and they were loads of fun to be with.
We started in Portland and had dinner at one of their famous food truck pods before shooting dusk along the Willamette River reflecting the skyline. Then it was two days on the coast photographing the beauty and uniqueness that is Oregon. On Sunday we drove through the Columbia River Gorge stopping to photograph the large waterfalls on our way to our lodge at Timberline ski resort on Mt. Hood.
But it all came down to experiencing the total solar eclipse. Words or pictures can’t describe the event, although I tried in yesterday’s blog post.
It was a great trip, I made many new friends and experienced something that will last a lifetime, although I’m already planning the next eclipse workshop. I hope you enjoy the photos.
There are some things in life you just can’t explain, you have to experience. Words or pictures convey the encounter. I had heard that viewing a solar eclipse is one of those things.
I now know that to be true.
Last year I decided to host a photography workshop based on the eclipse. I wanted to make sure the weather wouldn’t block the view so I researched where the least likely place for cloud cover would be and it was the desert of eastern Oregon. I’d been to Oregon several times, my sister Lynda and her husband Bill live in southern Oregon, but not close to where the eclipse would be in totality. My research showed that Madras was the town where all the serious astronomy folks were going so I thought it would be simple enough to grab some hotel rooms, after all I was more than a year early.
I couldn’t have been more wrong, the hotels had been full for three years. Now I really knew this was the place to be but there wasn’t anyplace to stay and I didn’t think my workshop attendees would want to camp. Bill suggested checking Timberline, a fairly small ski lodge on Mt. Hood, over an hour away from Madras. Sure enough they had rooms and I grabbed a bunch.
To round out the workshop I thought it would be fun to start on the amazing Oregon coast for a couple of days, photograph the massive waterfalls in the Columbia River gorge and then spend the last two nights at Mt. Hood.
It was a perfect plan until earlier this year when Bill pointed out how many people were planning on going to Madras, a town of 6,000 people with the probability of getting 100,000 visitors for the eclipse. There is only a two lane road coming to Madras and tons of people would be pouring out of Portland. Bill had visions of traffic like the Woodstock music festival.
In May I made a trip to Oregon to do scouting and find a good location for my group to experience the celestial show away from the crowd. I found a small site near the little village of Clarno that is part of a National Monument but it is out of the way and one the least visited National Monuments. It had things I was looking for: restrooms, shade and beautiful surroundings. It was 2-½ hours from Timberline, which was far from ideal but I thought it would be worth the drive to avoid the crowds.
So my plan was perfect again until wildfires erupted all over the Northwest U.S. and western Canada a few weeks ago. Nobody mentioned smoke clouding our view so I started looking for a plan B. Staying at the beach wasn’t a good option because morning fog frequently covers the area. Hotels in that area fill up fast normally in August but I tried anyway. Nothing to be found, especially for a group. Maybe Portland and do even more driving. The city was 99% full and only crazy expensive rooms were available. After much consultation with Lynda and Bill, my only real option was to stick to the original plan.
The workshop started on Wednesday and we saw great scenes and made terrific pictures in Portland, on the coast and along the Columbia river but I could tell people were anxious about the eclipse.
Sunday we started the day photographing a beautiful lake reflecting Mt. Hood and headed for Clarno and practice for the big day. We arrived to find quite a few people a couple of park rangers and several volunteers. We got a picnic table and got out our gear. Nine photographs tend to haul around too much stuff and none of packed very light. I had rented a 12 passenger van and took out a row of seats so there would be room for people and gear and we barely all fit in. Since there was no food for many miles, I had cooler with plenty of water and lunch provisions.
I had purchased sheets of solar film and offered to make filters that could be quickly removed during totality when they weren’t needed and quickly put back on after totality. The prototype I made at home worked great but was such a weird shape that there was no way I could travel with a dozen of them. I made the filter part but we had to customize each one to fit the different size lens each photographer would be using. So we had craft time at a picnic table in the Oregon desert. Each person glued and taped and created their filter. They looked funny but worked great in the tests we did.
Suddenly this eclipse thing was feeling real.
Our little park was closed to overnight camping, which was good for us. It opened at 6 a.m. yesterday and I had planned on leaving our hotel at 3:00 a.m. But talking to the rangers made me a bit nervous since they were expecting a big crowd and there was limited parking so I decided to leave at at 2:30 a.m. which would get us there and hour before it would open. I guessed that since this area was so secluded people who were staying nearby wouldn’t bother coming that early and hopefully there weren’t many people as crazy as us and drive that early.
It turns out I was right. When we rolled in there were four cars waiting in line. We started carrying equipment in and got one of the nice picnic tables under a little shelter. After the sun came up I made pancakes featuring Vermont maple syrup on a camp stove and people were getting giddy.
One participant brought a telescope and had a program that tracked the sun’s movement through a laptop computer. It also gave us voice messages when the eclipse started and sure enough we could see it.
The partial phases were cool but I was feeling a bit underwhelmed. As the moon was covering more of the sun, things changed. A unique light surrounded the area, it was like nothing I had experienced before. As the landscape got darker, it was a cool bluish color, not the warm color usually seen at sunset. Shadows from trees showed the sun’s crescent on the ground.
Then the diamond ring appeared, that little sliver of sun still showing before the moon totally covered the sun.
Whoa! This is what everyone had been talking about!
Everything was quiet, the air became cooler, the sky was dark and this amazing disc was hanging in the sky. I was firing my camera as fast as I could and changing exposures to make sure I got it right but we only had a minute and forty-two seconds of totality. I wanted to make sure I experienced this crazy phenomenon and not spend the whole time goofing around with camera settings.
102 seconds never went so fast.
And there are no words or pictures to accurately describe it.
I know I’m supposed to be more sophisticated as a professional photographer than to sit with my face plastered against the airplane window but it happens every time I fly, especially when crossing mountains. So there I was again this morning, my head bouncing between two windows trying to see all I could as we passed over the Rockies while headed to Oregon for my photo workshop.
This is my second trip to Oregon this year and I’m probably on the same route I’ve been on several times before, seeing the same mountains and valleys and enjoying it as much as ever.
I cram myself into a window seat whenever I fly not because I like to disrupt other passengers when I need to get up and stretch – it’s the view. All the other windows on the plane are closed but there I am leaving greasy nose marks on the window and a bit of drool down below.
I usually have the flight map showing on the seatback screen but United wanted me to pay for even that, so I couldn’t tell exactly where I was. It added to the fun, trying to guess what mountain we were flying over. Is that Idaho, Wyoming?
I’m snapping away with my iPhone loving the amazing show nature has provided down below, snow on the mountains, volcanic peaks, patches of farmland in the valleys and patterns in the desert landscape. All the while the gents sitting next to me are playing games on their phones, yawning a lot and bitching because there isn’t free inflight entertainment to keep their minds numb.
Dude, get a window seat next time, the best entertainment you can imagine is down below us.
It took me a while to get through all my photos, but I finally edited them down – somewhat.
One of the cool things that comes with hosting photography workshops is the great people I get to meet and spend time with. Workshops tend to create a bond between people who don’t know each other and they work together to make the best photos possible. But they make more than photos, they make friendships and it great to see how well folks get along when on a workshop. This trip was no different and when one person had to leave for a medical issue, the others were feeling down about not having their friend around any longer. They texted him to make sure he was ok after getting home and checked up with him each day.
The teamwork happened not only when making photos but also when it came to leisure time. Twice we did a tailgate dinner out in the boonies and they had a great time planning the food and wine and volunteering who would get what. Even when we didn’t have any glasses for the wine, they laughed and joked when I cut five empty water bottles in half to make 10 not-so-fancy drinking cups.
I look forward to our next adventure together, everyone has already signed up for either my March trip to Iceland or June Acadia National Park workshop.
Below are some of my photos from France. I’ll soon have a link to photos taken by the participants.
Today was the first day of real shooting for my photo workshop in Provence, France. We started off with a blast of lavender, wandering through huge fields. It was overwhelming for my sense of sight, smell and sound. I expected it to look wonderful, thigh-high rows of lavender stretching out to the horizon. I had seen plenty of photos, so the sight was a pleasure to see. And since it is lavender, I guessed it would smell great. I felt like rolling in it but I didn’t want to do any damage to the crop.
But what I didn’t expect was the sound. We were out in fields, away from the sound of humanity but there was a constant hum. I frequently see things that I don’t know what they are and I smell things that I don’t recognize but it rare to hear a sound that I can’t place. As I was walking through the rows of lavender it finally hit me that the hum I was hearing was actually a loud buzz and it was coming from bees. I had seen many bee hives near the fields but until I saw the squadron of bees doing their work on the lavender, I just couldn’t place their sound. Millions of bees pollinate the lavender and make it thrive and they were busy buzzing throughout the plants. They did make me move a little slower so I wouldn’t anger them and get stung.
Lupine grow in the wild from Maine to California and even down to Florida but it is still a thrilling sight to come a across a large meadow filled with them. One of my Woodstock, VT, neighbors pointed out a field of them yesterday less than two miles from my house.
I hadn’t seen them there before, I don’t know if I missed them, wasn’t paying attention or just didn’t look at the right time year.
This morning I went to the meadow at sunrise to catch the beauty of the early day light. The meadow is on the west side of a hill so it took a while for the sunlight to fall on them. The tall grass was wet from heavy dew and my jeans quickly got soaked as I walked through the field.
I was thinking about my upcoming workshop in Provence, France, where we will be shooting fields of lavender and how the lupines’ color is just a couple of shades darker.
There was lots to do explore in the field and I came away feeling good about spending the morning among the wild flowers.
There I was, sitting in the window seat as usual and the only person I could see with the shade open. I was on my way home from Oregon and flying towards Denver. It was just like the first flight I can remember, seeing big puffy clouds from above looking like giant balls of cotton. There are some things from my childhood that I hope I never forget and that first flight is one of them. I have no idea where I was going or how old I was but I sure remember seeing the grandeur of the earth for the first time from an airplane.
Since then I’ve flown in pretty much everything there is, sea planes, little planes, big planes, in a cargo 747 transporting horses from Europe, the Goodyear blimp over Manhattan, hot air balloons, helicopters with the door removed so I could get better pictures.
Hot air balloons are my favorite, if I had too much money and enough friends to chase the balloon, I’d have one. They travel at the speed of the wind and the only noise is the blast of the propane and frightened horses stomping below. I first flew in one while in college and working at my first newspaper. There was a small balloon festival across the river from where I was living. I was assigned to cover the morning launch which always happens right after sunrise. Being in college, if I saw sunrise it wasn’t because the alarm went off that early. When the alarm went off that day I pretty much ignored it and a little later when I looked out the window I could see balloons inflating. I quickly dressed and scampered over to the site and started shooting. One of the pilots needed a passenger and asked if I wanted to get in. I was still asleep but I was game. It was a magical ride and I actually got up early the next day to do it again. I begged rides whenever I could and years later a client was the largest balloon festival on the East Coast, which meant plenty of balloon rides.
If I could have, I would have hitched a ride on the Space Shuttle and I would have demanded a window seat. I love watching the earth go past from above.
So once again here I am gawking out the window and we are passing over the Rocky Mountains. There they are, jutting toward me and loaded with snow. The peaks are covered and most of the surrounding area is white with occasional rocks popping through. Like I did when I was a kid and ever since, I pulled out my camera and made some pictures. I know I won’t be able to sell pictures taken through a dirty, scratched airliner window, so my iPhone works just fine. I’m snapping away and I look toward the person sitting beside me and he is looking at me with a bit of amazement, I’m sure he is thinking this must be the first time I’ve flown or I wouldn’t be taking pictures through the foggy window.
It wasn’t the first time but I’m happy that I enjoy it just as much.
Today I drove from my sister’s house in Grants Pass north along Oregon’s coast on my way back to Portland. It is not the shortest or fastest route, Highway 101 along the coast is mostly two lanes and goes through lots of small towns. It wasn’t my first time but there is always something new to discover.
Highway 101 runs along the coast in many areas and there are incredible pulloffs for great views. I stopped at one overlooking Haceta Head lighthouse which is they claim to be the most photographed lighthouse in America. I can’t say it is the most photographed but I can say t here aren’t any that are more picturesque. It is a postcard photo, the easy kind to shoot so I don’t usually bother but it is fun to look at.
When I got out of the car I heard barking and it wasn’t dogs. I looked over the edge and 300 feet below were sea lions, maybe 200 of them. They were making quite a racket. The first thing that came to me was how to get down there. It didn’t take long to realize there was no way to climb down the cliffs and get near the beach, which is why the sea lions were there!
I had settle for shooting from above with my telephoto lens. There were on the rocks and swimming around in the water, they were fun to watch and I nearly forgot to make a shot of the lighthouse.
Today was a driving day, I went from north east central Oregon down to Grants Pass, which is pretty close to California. My sister lives in Grants Pass and I don’t get to see her nearly enough so even a quick overnight visit is a special treat for me. It would normally be about a five hour drive but of course I took the scenic route. A great thing about being out scouting is that when I see something that is mildly interesting I stop and check it out. Sometimes it is good, others not.
I hadn’t been to Crater Lake but I’ve seen lots of photos from there, it was pretty much on the way, so I thought it would be a good place to stop. After yesterday’s gas shortage adventure, I was watching the gas gauge rather closely today. I was headed toward the Crater Lake National Park and I had about 3/4 of a tank, so no problem.
Oregon is a big place and there aren’t many towns once you get a little ways east. As I finally near the park entrance, I was now down to 1/4 tank and I hadn’t seen anything close to a gas station for hours. I figured there would be one in the park and I turned on the road my GPS said was the best way. Road signs also said it was the way to Crater Lake but 200 yards on the road and it was covered with snow. Not a little snow, about three feet. Since my rental SUV didn’t do well Sunday in the snow and there were no tracks in this snow, I knew it wasn’t the way to go. I ended up taking the long way around.
As I started climbing the mountain I could see more snow along the side of the road. I did a steep climb and suddenly the snow was four feet deep along the road. As I went further the snow was higher, soon it was way higher than the cars and it felt like I was driving in a snow tunnel. Some places it was 15 feet deep. This is the middle of May, how deep was it in winter? There was a sign sticking out of the snow saying park info was on an AM radio station. I tuned it in to find out most roads and facilities were closed due to the snow and only the visitor center at the rim was open. There were no gas stations open.
I got to the rim and the snow was amazing, I’ve never seen snow that deep. I went inside to get something to eat and find the nearest gas station. A park worker obviously had been asked that too many times because she just kind of blew me off and said it was 45 miles and to head south when leaving the park. Then she walked away. That wasn’t good, I needed to go east to my sister’s house, not south.
Since there was all of this snow, I thought I’d worry about the gas later and shoot some pictures now. I walked over to end of the parking and climbed up onto the snow to get view of the lake. Lots of people were tromping through the snow to get a view and it was a great view. There was no wind on the lake so the trees and snow make a perfect reflection. I walked around a little and shot several photos. They were renting snow shoes and I wished my wife Robin was with me, we love to snow shoe in Vermont and this would have been a great afternoon for a snow hike. I would rather spend time with my sister than hike alone so I went back to the car.
The gas gauge was now getting too close to the E and I realized that I was on top of a tall mountain and it was downhill for a long time, so for the next 35 miles I coasted. I touched the gas pedal only a couple of times and had to apply the brakes many times for the steep curves. I can’t image what my mileage was, but it had to be great, the gauge barely moved by the time I got back to the highway. I figured I had at least 60 miles of gas left so I wasn’t too worried. 20 miles later there was a small sign to a gas station, it wasn’t on the highway, so I guess I wasn’t the first person to feel relief when seeing the sign.
My sister Lynda has a beautiful house on 15 acres, “out in the country” as her husband Bill likes to say. It was great to chat with them and take a stroll up through their meadow and then down to the creek that runs through their property. The creek was running strong since they had a lot of rain this winter. In the summer it is pretty much a trickle but it was beautiful today with lots of little cascades. I made some images of it and enjoyed the sound of the running water. Being the professional photographer that I am, it wasn’t until I am writing this that I realized I didn’t make any real pictures of Lynda and Bill, just a panorama with my iPhone. Some day I’ll remember to make people pictures.
It always seems like the simple and free things in life and the most enjoyable. Spending an evening with Lynda and Bill was the most fun thing I’ve done in a long time. I have to leave in the morning but hope I see them again soon.
My journey to Oregon was to nail down a great location for my workshop to photograph the total solar eclipse in August. I did a ton of online research and my brother-in-law Bill knows the area and gave me some great suggestions. I spent the day exploring Oregon’s high desert and even though I spent about 10 hours in the car and covered a lot of area, I only saw a small part of the desert. Most people don’t think of Oregon having desert but just like California to the south and Washington to the north, the eastern 2/3 of the state gets very little rain, especially in the summer. Which makes it a great place to view a solar eclipse!
Since the whole astronomy world is coming, I am hoping to find us a great place where there won’t be a huge crowd. Bill pointed out that the Portland area has a million people, they love the outdoors, the eclipse is on a Monday morning and they are less than two hours from where we will be. He thinks that might be a recipe for traffic like at the Woodstock concert.
There isn’t much out here, I saw some birds and a couple of black tail deer and not many towns. One road sign said 94 miles to the next gas station. I thought I was ready for that but my side trip to the painted hills put more miles on the car than I expected and it wasn’t long before I was in fairly desperate need of a refill. I went through a couple of towns that showed up on my GPS but they didn’t have any gas stations. I finally made it to the town of Fossil, a quiet village with a gas station.
Oregon and New Jersey are the only two states where you can’t pump your own gas. Every little town where I filled up had the old analog gas pumps with the numbers that roll over. No need to update the pumps. I talked with Ken as he pumped my gas, he was ready to chat, things are pretty quiet in the middle of the afternoon. Ken pumped gas when he was a teen, went off to college, came home and did some odd jobs for a few years and now he is pumping gas again. “Any job is a good job in this town,” Ken said as he put my gas cap back on. We went inside the station for me to pay and talked a lot more. The town is right in the center of the eclipse’s path and he said many people have rented out a spare bedroom for the weekend. With a sheepish grin, Ken said he was hoping for a couple of young college ladies to be in need of a room.
I love talking with locals because they know the best places to go. Ken told me to go to the top of the mountain and look for a gravel pit just off the highway about 10 miles from where I was hoping our site would be. He told me the view from the gravel pit is his favorite in the whole area and not many people know about it. Cool, this is just what I was looking for. He also said there is a small dirt road down in the valley along the river that is easy to access.
It was about a 30 minute drive to the gravel pit and I had to pass my main spot, so I stopped there first. It is part of national refuge so there are toilets and a few picnic tables right next to towering cliffs they call the Palisades. It is very cool and it will make a great place for us to shoot but I wanted to check out the gravel pit. I crossed the river and drove down the little road along it but it wasn’t anything special so I headed up the mountain looking for the gravel pit. When I started down the other side I realized I missed so I turned around. When I came up over the top again the view was amazing. Ken was right, this is a special view. Since I hadn’t seen another car since I left the gas station, I slowed way down and crawled down the mountain and quickly saw a pile of gravel near the road. There were tire tracks worn into the dirt and right away was a fence and closed gate with a couple of No Trespassing signs. Damn. If I was shooting the eclipse by myself, I’d jump the fence but I can’t take a group of 10 people onto posted property. I looked around for a phone number but couldn’t find anything. The gravel pit wasn’t going to work.
Back to Plan A. I drove back to my main site and it will be a great location. We will get there plenty early in the morning, photograph the rising sun shining on the Palisades, I’ll cook everyone some of my famous pancakes and of course I’ll have a big bottle of Vermont maple syrup.
August can’t come too fast, this will be a great adventure.
I landed in Portland, OR, this afternoon to do some final scouting for my upcoming Oregon Solar Eclipse Photography Workshop that will be in August. I’ve been to Oregon several times but not to the high desert, which is the eastern side of the side.
Most people don’t think of Oregon as being desert but most of the state gets very little rainfall, especially from now until late fall. About half of the state doesn’t even get much in the winter, although the higher elevations get some snow.
Last year when I was thinking about photographing the upcoming total solar eclipse I did a lot of research to determine where the least likely place for clouds would be along the path of the eclipse. A desert made a lot of sense and as soon as I saw the eclipse’s path would be in Oregon, I thought that would be an ideal place. I quickly discovered I wasn’t the only one, the town of Madras is ground zero for the serious eclipse watchers. Many websites said this is where the astronomers are going to be so I knew it would be a great place for a workshop. I started checking on hotels and they all were booked. I was a year ahead of when I wanted to stay but many people were a couple of years ahead of me. The hotel I’m in tonight said they have been booked for four years. Fortunately my sister lives in Oregon and last year her husband suggested I check a ski resort about an hour from Madras. They had some rooms so I grabbed them.
On my way from the airport to Madras I took the scenic route through the Columbia River gorge, which is spectacular. It is filled with water falls, which I’ve photographed before so I didn’t stop to make any pictures. I’ll back back here with the workshop, so I thought my limited time was better spent getting to the desert. I did stop for one scenic overlook and it was just starting to rain a little, so I got a cool shot of the river and clouds.
The drive to the ski resort we are staying at on Mt. Hood is only a little over an hour from Portland. I stopped to make sure it was great and it is. There is still a lot of snow up here, the lifts aren’t running but people are climbing the mountain and skiing down. The late day sun hitting the mountain was stunning.
I wanted to go to a little lake that offers a beautiful view of the mountain and I hoped I could get some reflection shots. I drove to the lake and there was snow on the road a sign that said it was closed in the winter but open after April 1. I could see tracks from other vehicles and since I rented a four-wheel-drive Nissan Rogue, I thought I’d give it a try. It wasn’t long before the snow was so deep it was hitting the bottom of the SUV. Since it was starting to get dark, I figured it wouldn’t be too smart getting stuck out where I might not get out until morning so I turned around. When I got back out to the main road I could hear a thumping under the SUV. The faster I drove the faster the thump. Great, I’m only 100 miles into my journey and I broke the rental car. I figured I’d drive until it didn’t want to go any more and about 30 minutes later the thump went away. I probably packed snow up in the engine compartment and it finally melted off.
Just after dark I made my way into Madras and checked in at a hotel. My Oregon adventure is off to a fun start.
One of my best friends succumbed to the ravages of cancer yesterday. Sophie was our eight-year-old Bernese Mountain Dog who thought she was two years old – until nine days ago when she became lethargic and wouldn’t eat. One of her many nicknames was Chubby, so not eating was a sign there was a major problem. We ran her to the vet and it turned out she had cancer. She declined rapidly and yesterday her liver shut down and she was done.
Sophie was a constant joy, my wife Robin always said Sophie was exuberant. Going from one side of the room to the other meant bounding, not walking. She always wanted to have a stuffed toy in her mouth. Her first one was a monkey, so after that she responded to any toy as her monkey. When she was trying to lick my face, I’d tell her to get her monkey, she’d run off and find a toy and bring it back and was then ready to lick again.
Anytime I needed a smile, all I had to do was say “Hey Sophie” and 80 pounds of dog would bounce over and the Sophie circus act would begin. She loved to sit on my foot and lean against me waiting to be petting, it is a Bernese Mountain Dog trait, but she took it to the next level. Sophie was always a puppy, she got bigger but always had an incredible innocence and love for life.
Sophie lived up to her Swiss heritage and loved the snow. She would run out in it, bounce around, eat it and plop in the deepest show she could find. In the summer it would be hard to get her out of the house, but she was in her glory in the winter. It was hard to get her to come in when the snow was deep.
She loved sitting on the couch with us as we watched TV. She didn’t lay on the couch, she sat. Right between Robin and me. She sat with her back resting on the back of the couch just like us. She’d wave her front paws around and try to get our attention. If we didn’t look at her to her she’d get frustrated and try some boxing. If that didn’t get sufficient attention she’d groan and growl until we looked at her. Most times she’d then look away and peek at us out of the corner of her eye. I’d blow on her when she was looking at Robin and she’d moan with frustration because I looked away before she spun around to look me. The game would last for a while until she would pounce on one of us demanding to be petted. But if a dog was on the TV, the game was paused while she watched and made little whines. One day she hopped off the couch and ran over to look behind the TV for the dog and looked puzzled when she couldn’t find it. After the dogs were off the screen, it was back to our peek a boo game.
Most mornings while I was in the shower Sophie and our other Berner Zian would be downstairs waiting for dogs to walk past the house. Sophie would start a high pitched howl and Zian would join in. Their longest song I recorded was 90 seconds, but they frequently sang longer than that.
It is going to be a quiet house now and we will miss her for a long time. We may someday get another dog but Sophie will never be replaced.
We lost one of the American great ones today – John Glenn. He was the first American to orbit the earth and the oldest man in space after going up in the Space Shuttle at age 77. He was a Marine fighter pilot flying 149 combat missions during World War II and the Korean War and was known as “Old Magnet Ass” because his plane was shot so many times and he kept it flying. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross six times.
To be a hero you have to be willing to sacrifice your life in a way that will benefit others. Hero gets tossed around too much, people many times do the right thing but if they don’t put their life on the line, they ain’t a hero. I heard a dog called a hero this week because it bit someone attacking its owner.
But Glenn was a hero, many times over. And a good guy.
He was a Senator from Ohio when I lived there in the ’80s and ran for President in 1984. I worked for a small daily newspaper and even though our circulation area was 50 miles from where Glenn lived, it was such a big story that we covered his presidential announcement. We were an afternoon paper and the event was scheduled for late morning, which meant we had time to get a story in that day’s paper and an AP photo. I talked the editor into sending me and I promised I have a print ready by noon from a 10 a.m. event that was 90 minutes away.
These were the days of film and we didn’t have a transmitter, so the only way the get the picture in the paper was to develop the film during the 90 minute drive back to Marietta. I arranged to use the newspaper’s circulation van and got one of their people to be my driver. I set up a film darkroom in the back of the utility van, I had a changing bag to load my film into a developing tank, the proper chemicals and rinse. I was ready. (more…)